Rivals Outlook: Games of Sept. 18
San Diego State (1-0) vs. No. 17 Michigan (1-1)
12:00 p.m. EDT – ESPN
Daily Line: Michigan minus 22
San Diego State player to watch: Linebacker Kirk Morrison is the best defensive player you have never heard of. Last season he had 117 tackles with 17 TFL, and will need a strong day to slow down an angry Wolverine team.
Michigan player to watch: Running back Mike Hart could get his first collegiate start against the Aztecs this week. Michigan’s running game has been horrible this season, and Hart is hoping to be the answer.
The inside scoop: It’s déjà vu all over again for the Wolverines after losing their road opener for the fifth straight season. Chad Henne has been making improvements as the Michigan quarterback, but the lack of running game is still causing problems on the eve of the conference schedule. The Aztecs enter the game with a balanced offense, gaining 290 yards on the ground and 291 in the air, but will be hard-pressed to continue that success against Michigan.
San Diego State will win if : the Wolverines don’t come to play. With a painful Notre Dame loss just a week old and a difficult Big Ten opener with Iowa a week away, there is a remote chance Michigan will come out flat, but don’t bet on it.
Michigan will win if: it can find the missing running game. Breaking in a new quarterback will be a lot easier if Hart or Underwood can make the Wolverines multi-dimensional.
The pick: Michigan 24, San Diego State 10
Kansas (2-0) vs. Northwestern (0-2)
1:00 p.m. CDT – No TV
Daily Line: Northwestern minus 2.5
Kansas player to watch: Quarterback Adam Barmann torched the Toledo defense last week for more than 300 yards in a 63-14 rout. The sophomore is a pro-style quarterback, and the Northwestern defense has struggled this season against efficent passing attacks.
Northwestern player to watch: Quarterback Brett Basanez has been a steady force on a good Wildcat offense. He is arguably the second best quarterback in the conference, but if Basanez will ever get any support from the defense remains to be seen.
The inside scoop: Northwestern is going to face another big, strong-armed quarterback when it matches up with Kansas. The Wildcat offense has been productive this season, but the youth and inexperience on the defensive side of the ball has been the Achilles heel. Noah Herron should be the difference in this game. If he can keep the Kansas offense off the field and help establish a ball-control offense for the Wildcats, they should win. If not, and it will be a long day for the Northwestern defense.
Kansas will win if : it can get another big game out of Barmann. Head coach Mark Mangino has done an excellent job getting his team to buy into his system, and has the Jayhawks on the verge of going 3-0 on the season.
Northwestern will win if: it can keep Barmann in check and establish the run to help control the clock as well as keep the defense off the field.
The pick: Kansas 35, Northwestern 24
Central Florida (0-2) vs. Penn State (1-1)
12:00 p.m. EDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Penn State minus 20.5
Central Florida player to watch: Running back Alex Haynes was one of the few bright spots in the Golden Knights' 45-20 loss to WVU last week rushing for 137 yards.
Penn State player to watch: Quarterback Zack Mills is coming off a terrible outing against Boston College where he was intercepted four times in a 21-7 loss. However, he should be in for a big afternoon against a soft UCF defense.
The inside scoop: Penn State took a step backward last week against Boston College. The question all Nittany Lion fans want answered is which team will show up to play UCF: the one that dismantled Akron in the opener, or the one that looked confused and slow against BC. PSU running backs Austin Scott and Tony Hunt are averaging more than eight yards a carry, and will need to find continued success to add to offensive depth.
Central Florida will win if : it finds an offense. There is no way to put it nicely; the Golden Knight offense has been terrible, and if the same team shows up to Happy Valley that has come out the previous two games, George O’Leary will hear the Nittany Lion road early and often.
Penn State will win if: it can cut down on mistakes. Five turnovers against any team, even UCF, might be too many to handle, so PSU needs to focus on doing the little things right.
The pick: Penn State 31, UCF 13
Western Michigan (1-1) vs. Illinois (1-1)
1:00 p.m. CDT – No TV
Daily Line: Illinois minus 8.5
Western Michigan player to watch: Punter Adam Anderson got a workout against Virginia Tech last week, and should get plenty of action this week as well.
Illinois player to watch: Running back E.B. Halsey should get the majority of carries for the Illini this week. With quarterback Jon Beutjer being injured, Halsey should have the opportunity for a big game.
The inside scoop: Western Michigan will try to spread the field and throw frequently. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is a legitimate threat and should have a big day against the Illinois defense. Ryan Cubit may get the start at quarterback because of the injury to Blayne Baggett. Beutjer likely won't play this week because of a bruised sternum. He was in uniform for practice this week and threw a little bit, but redshirt freshman Brad Bower will probably play. What does Bower do best? He runs the ball because the coaches want to keep the offense simple for the young quarterback.
Western Michigan will win if : it can get up early on Illinois and force the Illini to abandon the run.
Illinois will win if: it is able to run effectively against the Broncos defense.
The pick: Illinois 35, Western Michigan 21
No. 9 Ohio State (2-0) vs. N.C. State (1-0)
3:30 p.m. EDT – ABC Sports
Daily Line: Ohio State minus 2.5
Ohio State player to watch: Cornerback Ashton Youboty will fill in for at least the next four weeks for injured team captain Dustin Fox, who has a broken arm. He has seen action in every game since he has been with the Buckeyes.
N.C. State player to watch: Quarterback Jay Davis has been given the monumental task of filling in for first-round NFL quarterback Phillip Rivers. He won’t get any sympathy from an always stingy Ohio State defense.
The inside scoop: This game has been circled on calendars in Raleigh for more than a year after Ohio State’s triple-overtime win in Columbus last season. These will be different teams, with Ohio State losing 14 players to the NFL draft, and the Wolfpack losing Rivers, and the status of T.A. McClendon still being up in the air. Neither team has mounted much of a ground game, and with the weather being a concern due to Hurricane Ivan, there is no telling if this will an offensive shootout or a sloppy mess.
Ohio State will win if : it can run the ball and win the turnover battle. Ohio State is minus seven in turnover differential this season.
NC State will win if: it can shut down wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who has accounted for half of the Ohio State touchdowns.
The pick: Ohio State 28, NC State 27
No. 20 Wisconsin (2-0) vs. Arizona (1-1)
3 p.m. CDT – Fox Sports Net
Daily Line: Wisconsin minus 10
Wisconsin player to watch: Quarterback John Stocco hasn’t been overly impressive in either of his first two outings. He won’t be in for any easier of a time going against a good Arizona defense that has held its first two opponents to 173 passing yards a game.
Arizona player to watch: Running back Mike Bell was shut down last week against Utah rushing for only 27 yards, well short of the 118 he ripped off against Northern Arizona in the opener.
The inside scoop: This game has all the makings of a defensive struggle. The Badgers are allowing less than five points a game, while Arizona has not been setting the world on fire offensively. The absence of Anthony Davis from the line-up has all but killed the Badgers ground attack. Booker Stanley will be the No. 1 running back again, but will he be able to solve the Arizona defense?
Wisconsin will win if : it can score points on offense. Arizona is a step up in competition, but the Badger defense will keep this game close.
Arizona will win if: it can rattle Stocco. If Mike Stoops’ defense can knock down the Wisconsin quarterback a couple times, the Badgers offense will suffer.
The pick: Wisconsin 17, Arizona 9
Notre Dame (1-1) vs. Michigan State (1-1)
7 p.m. EDT – ESPN
Daily Line: Michigan State plus 3
Notre Dame player to watch: Running back Darius Walker shed his true freshman label and rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns in Notre Dame’s upset win over the Wolverines last week.
Michigan State player to watch: Quarterback Stephen Reaves is back under center for the second start of his career. His first outing was not overly impressive, going 9 of 19 for 183 yards. He will need a better showing against the Irish if he wants to stay unbeaten as the starter.
The inside scoop: Everyone expected Notre Dame to get beaten soundly by Michigan, except for the Irish. Will that Notre Dame show up in East Lansing on Saturday, or the one that was embarrassed at BYU the previous week? Walker’s impact on the team should make quarterback Brady Quinn’s life easier, after having to attempt 67 passes in the first two games. Spartans running back Jason Teague will be in for a tough game against the Notre Dame front seven, which is allowing a mere 39 yards a game on the ground.
Notre Dame will win if : it plays like it did against Michigan. If Walker can keep running like he did last week, it will give the Irish the running threat that they have been missing.
Michigan State will win if: it is able to shut down Walker and the running game early. When the Irish couldn’t run the ball in the opener, BYU was able to push the Irish around. Look for Michigan State to commit to stopping the run and force Quinn try to beat them through the air.
The pick: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 14
Indiana (2-0) vs. Kentucky (0-1)
7 p.m. EDT – No TV
Daily Line: Indiana plus 1
Indiana player to watch: Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has rushed for 188 yards this season. He quite possibly could rush for that much against a porous Kentucky run defense which gave up 261 yards on the ground to Louisville two weeks ago.
Kentucky player to watch: Defensive end Vincent “Sweet Pea” Burns has been bothered with a leg injury early in the season, will this be the game that he breaks out and victimizes a shaky Hoosiers offense?
The inside scoop: Indiana leads the overall series for the “Old Bourbon Barrel”, 17-16-1. Will the Hoosiers be able to follow up their shocking upset over Oregon with another road win? Not if they don’t find some offense. The Hoosiers gained less than 200 total yards in the win, but should find an easier time moving the ball against Kentucky. The Wildcats need a better outing from quarterback Shane Boyd, who struggled against Louisville. If he can’t rally the offense, don’t look for the running game to bail Kentucky out; it only gained 66 yards in their first game.
Indiana will win if : it can move the ball. The Hoosiers can’t count on seven turnovers again this week, and will need to give punter Tyson Beattie a break this week.
Kentucky will win if: it gets any production from it's offensive line. The O-line play has been horrendous, and if the Wildcats want any chance of winning will need a better effort than in the opener.
The pick: Indiana 14, Kentucky 10
No. 16 Iowa (2-0) vs. Arizona State (2-0)
9 p.m. CDT – ESPN Plus
Daily Line: Iowa plus 1
Iowa player to watch: Running back Jermelle Lewis should be in for a big game against the Sun Devils. Arizona State surrendered 228 yards on the ground last week to Northwestern, which means Lewis has the potential of having a career-type game.
Arizona State player to watch: Quarterback Andrew Walter feasted on an overmatched Northwestern secondary last week, but will find a tougher road when the Hawkeyes come to town.
The inside scoop: Arizona State is quietly putting together the kind of season that people expected last year. Wide receiver Derek Hagan had more than 1,000 receiving yards last year, and is the Sun Devils’ biggest deep threat. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate will see a new look ASU defense, which abandoned the 4-2-5 of last season to go with the more traditional 4-3. Tate has looked sharp so far this season, but has not been given the opportunity to air it out yet.
Iowa will win if : it can slow down Walter and Hagan on offense and can improve on third-down conversions (5 of 15 last week against Iowa State).
Arizona State will win if: it can establish enough of a running game with Loren Wade to keep the Iowa defense guessing.
The pick: Iowa 28, Arizona State 24
No. 22 Minnesota (2-0) vs. Colorado State (0-2)
9 p.m. CDT – ESPN2
Daily Line: Minnesota minus 3
Minnesota player to watch: Quarterback Bryan Cupito has not been putting huge numbers, but has been steady, completing 59 percent of his passes and not throwing any interceptions.
Colorado State player to watch: Quarterback Justin Holland has been putting up big numbers so far this season, passing for more than 300 yards a game and completing 63 percent of his passes.
The inside scoop: This game has all the makings of a shoot-out. Minnesota can put a lot of points on the board with running backs Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney. Colorado State was blanked by USC last week, but still has a potent offense behind Holland and wide receiver David Anderson.
Minnesota will win if : It comes out and plays the same type of football it did against Toledo. The Gophers have so many weapons on offense that are nearly impossible to defend when clicking.
Colorado State will win if: It can slow down the Minnesota ground game and force Cupito to the air. Even so, it may be tough if Cupito is able to hook up with receivers Jared Ellerson and Ernie Wheelwright.
The pick: Minnesota 38, Colorado State 24
Open Week: No. 18 Purdue
Last Week: 6-5